Fantasy Life, the new book from Matthew Berry -- aka the world's foremost authority on fantasy football -- chronicles all the insanity and passion and passionate insanity that things like accidentally drafting Antowain Smith AGAIN can drum up.
To give you a taste, we asked him to rank his top five craziest fantasy sports stories of all time. Without further ado, here they are...
They were in a hot tub and they were drunk
Good friends from college, they played in a 10-team fantasy football league together. And as the drinks kept flowing, so did the trash talk.
Trash talk leads to bets and bets lead to rules and by the end of the evening, the group had come to a very simple, but very real agreement
Last place in the league… has to get a tattoo
Not some lame-ass henna tattoo that fades in a few weeks. No, we’re talking a legit, full-on, chosen by the winner, for-the-rest-of-your-life tattoo. Nights that start drunk in a hot tub often end in regret, but “Sobering up the next morning, we stuck with it,” Quin Kilgore told me. “One of the guys in the league, Spud Mann, was in law school at the time and drew up a contract dictating size, placement, and tone of the tattoo.”
The basic parameters: embarrassing tattoos are allowed, racist ones are not and no going all Mike Tyson and putting it on the face. “Just before the draft that year, we all signed it. And, of course, the first year the loser was the guy who drew up the contract... Spud Mann.”
They've done this league for three years now and the craziest part of this story isn't that these guys would let someone else choose a cruel tattoo for them because they lost at fantasy football. No, the crazy part is that it's not all that crazy.
When I was writing my book Fantasy Life, I heard the most unbelievable stories. Punishments for losing your league, attempts at cheating, risking your life to draft: I’ve heard it all.
I heard about a guy who had an entire church staring at him as he held up a wedding because he was so focused on making a trade on his iPhone. (He was the best man and the priest had to ask him YET AGAIN if he had the ring.) Another guy stopped by a house to make his draft pick. As he was on his way to the hospital. While his wife -- who was in labor -- waited in the car! I’ve heard about a league out in the Bronx where the loser has to dress as a lion and the rest of the league hunts him with paintball guns.
Fantasy sports can bring out the best (and worst) in all of us. Here, now, are the top five craziest fantasy sports stories that I’ve heard.
No. 5: The Cheater
“Travis” had done it the right way. As the commissioner of a work league in 2010, he finished first in the regular season. And then, in the first round of the playoffs, he squeaked out a victory, winning by 2 points.
Or did he?
Late on Monday, the NFL ruled that in his week 15 game against the Jets, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall had rushed for 99 yards instead of the 100 he was originally credited with. As a result of the stat change a day later, Travis actually lost his playoff game by 2 points. He felt the way you or I would. “I was incredibly upset and felt cheated.”
Of course, the way Travis reacted is probably different from how most of us would.
“I went in that night before I thought anyone noticed and changed the totals. However, because commissioner changes are listed, some guys noticed. They confronted me and I admitted what I had done and changed it back. They then told everyone at the office about my cheating.” I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that’s pretty bad. But guess what? That’s not the worst part. Tell them what the worst part is, Travis.
“I am a pastor.”
You heard him. A pastor.
“At the time, a staff pastor for a big church in Oklahoma, as is the rest of the league.”
That’s right. Travis cheated in a league full of pastors. "We were in our weekly pastoral staff meeting and we all started yelling at each other. Not really angry, just being aggressive and challenging each other’s code of ethics. Our boss, the senior pastor, did not play in the league. He just sat there staring at us with this look like 'I can't believe I hired these idiots to help me pastor this church.'" Honestly, I can’t either.
No. 4: Dressed up for the Draft
The problem was Joe Bozek. Specifically, Joe Bozek’s job. More specifically, the fact that Joe had been called in at the last minute to work said job. Two hours before the draft. But this was the only time they could all get together and the season started the next day. Joe needed the job, so why not keep the draft time the same and switch the location?
To Joe’s workplace.
Which was the popular chain restaurant Red Robin.
Where Joe would be DRESSED AS THE RED ROBIN.
Yep. They were running a promotion, and Joe had to wear the Red Robin suit, hand out flyers, and shake hands.
They let the robin draft tenth so he would have plenty of time between picks. "Every few minutes", a league member remembered, "he would waddle over to our table to see what pick we were on and who had been selected." Joe explains it wasn’t easy. "Turns out, a cheat sheet taped inside my beak was not ideal."
No. 3: The "You Suck Balls Award"
Like many leagues, Isaac Robinson’s Hopeful Chiefs Fan League awards a trophy to the last-place finisher. Unlike many leagues, this last-place trophy nearly caused an international incident.
They call it the “You Suck Balls Award”, and it’s basically an athletic cup on a block of wood, spray-painted gold. The “winner” that year was a guy named Royce, who was working and couldn’t pick it up in person. So, on August 18, the trophy was delivered to Royce’s porch.
And that’s where the trouble begins. You see, the job that caused Royce to miss the trophy presentations? It was working for a congressman. A controversial one. One who had been getting death threats. So when Royce comes home to find a ratty cardboard box sealed with duct tape and a scrawled note saying, “Special delivery for Royce”, what does he do?
Exactly. DEA, ATF, bomb squad, FBI agents were all dispatched to his house. The neighborhood was evacuated. Local TV reporters were covering it. The bomb squad robot was brought in, remotely scanned the box, and saw the words “You Suck Balls” staring back at it.
Isaac had to spend many hours being interrogated by the FBI, explaining that no, he does not mean any threat to the congressman, and that Royce does, in fact, suck balls at fantasy football.
No. 2: WHO traded WHAT?
There once was a 10-team league with a husband and wife who were each managing their own teams. Very normal. The husband owned Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, who was having a breakout season. The wife had Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who was in the middle of a monster year. Still normal.
On the Sunday of week 11 in the 2011 season, however, Fred Jackson broke a bone in his leg and was lost for the season. This is where the normal ends.
Two days later, on Tuesday of that week... tragedy. The wife suddenly and tragically passed away. Heartbreaking, right? Just devastating. On Friday of that very same week, just three days after the wife passed away, a new transaction pops up on the league message board. The husband trades out-for-the-year Fred Jackson. To the dead wife. For LeSean McCoy!
Clearly, the husband is controlling both teams. It's weird, but the guy just suffered a tragic and horrific loss, people grieve in different ways, so... the league decides to just look the other way. The whole league, that is, except one guy. This guy starts blasting the husband all over the message board, emailing him privately, calling him names, and yelling about the trade. “I don’t care if she’s dead! It’s a bullshit trade!” Finally, the husband responds: “Hey!!!” he says. “It was her dying wish.”
Ball game, husband. And the craziest story I've ever heard?
No. 1: Drafting at War
Steve Straub was stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan when he was having his online draft with his buddies back home. Steve was used to it. His team name is “A Doctor Without Borders” since he’s been in a different country for every fantasy draft the league has had.
Time differences being what they are, it was the middle of the night while Steve drafted. But of course, that wasn’t the only thing that made Steve’s draft different from normal drafts.
"It was 1:00 A.M. local time when the rockets began to hit our base," Steve recalls. Wait. Hold on. Rockets?
"Yeah, the rockets landed about 50 yards away and three or four of them landed in my general vicinity in a period of about 10 minutes. They are deafening when they land and they are usually 107mm rockets."
And you didn’t get the hell out of there?!!?
"Well, no shrapnel or dirt or anything was sent in my direction and I couldn't go anywhere else or I would have lost my internet signal. The internet here is poor at best."
You know what else is poor at best? Surviving rockets.
Security officials in battle gear ordered Steve to the bunkers. He told them that he couldn’t leave because it was a crucial point in the draft. The security officials insisted, "Sir, you need to get to the bunkers." Steve replied, "No, I need to find a good running back for my flex position." The security officials got irritated and walked away.
"I finished the draft with no more issues, and right now, I am getting the last laugh, as I am tied for first place."
Well, I’d argue you got the last laugh by cheating death, but tomato, tomahto. Bombs, tattoos, and fuzzy animal costumes... got something crazier? Tweet it to @MatthewBerryTMR and @Thrillist using #FantasyLife or post it in the comments below. I’ll send a copy of my new book, Fantasy Life, to the five people who share the best story.